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Iowa State hopes to keep building momentum with star-studded recruiting class led by Omaha Biliew

Big 12 Media Day Basketball
Posted at 12:38 PM, Oct 26, 2023

Considering he took over a program that went 2-22 overall and 0-18 in the Big 12 in 2020-21, it would be fair to say T.J. Otzelberger has overachieved in his first two seasons at Iowa State.

His first team made a surprise run to the Sweet 16 and his second made it back to the NCAA Tournament.

So don't underestimate the Cyclones this season even though they bring back less than one-third of their scoring, half of their rebounding and one starter from the team that went 19-14 and tied for fifth in the Big 12 at 9-9.

Otzelberger signed a five-man recruiting class that 247Sports ranks first in the conference and seventh nationally to go with three transfers who are proven scorers.

Omaha Biliew is the centerpiece of the freshman class. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward from nearby Waukee is the No. 11 national recruit by ESPN and the highest-rated player ever signed by the Cyclones. Biliew gives the Cyclones a high-energy player who can get to the foul line, rebound and defend all five positions.

"There's going to be an expectation level from our fans and the community and what everybody expects to see," Otzelberger said. "What I (tell) everybody is Omaha is going to play with a relentless effort. He's going to be someone that really cares about the Cyclones winning."

WHO'S BACK

Tamin Lipsey, the only returning starter, averaged 7.3 points per game. He made the Big 12's all-freshman team after making 73 steals, most ever by an ISU freshman. His 146 assists were second most by an ISU freshman.

Tre King wasn't eligible until the second half of the season because of transfer rules, but he led the Cyclones with 4.3 rebounds per game and started the last five games.

Robert Jones is a brawny and dependable reserve who appeared in all 33 games, including starts in the last five games, and scored in double figures nine times.

Hason Ward shot a a team-best 67.4% from the field and, at 6-9 and 230 pounds, gives the Cyclones a strong defensive presence in the paint.

WHO'S GONE

Jaren Holmes (13.3 ppg), Gabe Kalschuer (12.9 ppg), Osun Osunniyi (8.2 ppg) and Aljaz Kunc (7.1 ppg) exhausted their eligibility and Caleb Grill (9.5 ppg) left the program after 25 games and transferred to Missouri.

WHO'S NEW

Biliew pledged in July 2022 to sign with the Cyclones after considering offers from Kansas and Oregon and also the NBA G League. The consensus five-star recruit played in the McDonald's All-America game after averaging 22.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.1 blocked shots per game as a senior at Waukee High.

Most other years, forward Milan Momcilovic of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, would have been the star of the freshman class. He was the No. 34 national recruit by 247Sports after he led his school to three straight state titles and averaged 23.4 points and 10 rebounds per game as a senior.

JT Rock, a 7-1 center from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and guard Jelani Hamilton of Marietta, Georgia, both were four-star recruits.

Jackson Paveletzke averaged 15.1 points per game and shot 39.3% on 3-pointers as a freshman at Wofford last season. Curtis Jones, who transferred from Buffalo, also was a 15-point scorer last season. Keshon Gilbert averaged 11.4 points and a team-best 1.7 steals for UNLV.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Cyclones open Nov. 6 at home against Green Bay, host Iowa in the CyHawk Game on Dec. 7 and open Big 12 play at Oklahoma on Jan. 16.

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